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Public Statements

Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act of 2005

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY IN FOOD CONSUMPTION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - October 19, 2005)

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Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, Congress is once again using abusive litigation at the State level as a justification nationalizing tort law. In this case, the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act (H.R. 554) usurps State jurisdiction over lawsuits related to obesity against food manufacturers.

Of course, I share the outrage at the obesity lawsuits. The idea that a fast food restaurant should be held legally liable because some of its customers over indulged in the restaurant's products, and thus are suffering from obesity-related health problems, is the latest blow to the ethos of personal responsibility that is fundamental in a free society. After all, McDonalds does not force anyone to eat at its restaurants. Whether to make Big Macs or salads the staple of one's diet is totally up to the individual. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that a diet centering on super-sized cheeseburgers, French fries, and sugar-filled colas is not healthy. Therefore, there is no rational basis for these suits. Some proponents of lawsuits claim that the fast food industry is ``preying'' on children. But isn't making sure that children limit their consumption of fast foods the responsibility of parents, not trial lawyers? Will trial lawyers next try to blame the manufacturers of cars that go above 65 miles per hour for speeding tickets?

Congress bears some responsibility for the decline of personal responsibility that led to the obesity lawsuits. After all, Congress created the welfare state that popularized the notion that people should not bear the costs of their mistakes. Thanks to the welfare state, too many Americans believe they are entitled to pass the costs of their mistakes on to a third party--such as the taxpayers or a corporation with ``deep pockets.''

While I oppose the idea of holding food manufacturers responsible for their customers' misuse of their products, I cannot support addressing this problem by nationalizing tort law. It is long past time for Congress to recognize that not every problem requires a Federal solution. This country's founders recognized the genius of separating power among Federal, State, and local governments as a means to maximize individual liberty and make government most responsive to those persons who might most responsibly influence it. This separation of powers strictly limits the role of the Federal Government in dealing with civil liability matters; and reserves jurisdiction over matters of civil tort, such as food related negligence suits, to the State legislatures.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I would remind the food industry that using unconstitutional Federal powers to restrict State lawsuits makes it more likely those same powers will be used to impose additional Federal control over the food industry. Despite these lawsuits, the number one threat to business remains a Federal government freed of its Constitutional restraints. After all, the Federal government imposes numerous taxes and regulations on the food industry, often using the same phony ``pro-consumer'' justifications used by the trial lawyers. Furthermore, while small business, such as fast-food franchises, can move to another State to escape flawed State tax, regulatory, or legal policies, they cannot as easily escape destructive Federal regulations. Unconstitutional expansions of Federal power, no matter how just the cause may seem, are not in the interests of the food industry or of lovers of liberty.

In conclusion, while share the concern over the lawsuits against the food industry that inspired H.R. 554, this bill continues the disturbing trend of federalizing tort law. Enhancing the power of the Federal government is in no way in the long-term interests of defenders of the free market and Constitutional liberties. Therefore, I must oppose this bill.

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